Educator Toolkit: The Entrepreneurial Mindset

by Effie Zhou

Why This Matters Now

So often we talk about entrepreneurship in the context of start-ups — determined men and women with great ideas and a hunger to turn them into growing businesses. Knowledge@Wharton High School is filled with stories about enterprising young entrepreneurs with big dreams for success in everything from bowties to floating space junk.

While we can learn so much from this traditional entrepreneurship model, it is by no means the only way to think about the value of embracing an entrepreneurial spirit in the business world. An online article in Entrepreneurship magazine recently suggested, Corporate World or Entrepreneurship? It Doesn’t Have to Be One Versus the Other. That article goes on to say, “We should encourage entrepreneurship, but we must remember that entrepreneurship takes on many different shapes and forms – perhaps we can consider it a mindset, rather than a job role.”

The characteristics that define great entrepreneurs, including innovative thinking, problem solving and determination, are assets within larger companies, as well. Some people call this intrapreneurship (intrapreneur), or bringing the entrepreneurial mindset into a corporate environment. It’s critical to help students understand that experimentation, learning from failure and developing strong entrepreneurial skills don’t just set them up to do great things in start-up ecosystems like Silicon Valley. They also prepare them to disrupt and shine inside a more collaborative corporate culture.


Wisdom from the Parlor: Ice Cream Entrepreneurs Share Their Struggles
In business, as in life, overcoming challenges helps people grow. As you begin to explore the secret sauce of the entrepreneurial mindset with your students, this article provides a great jumping-off point: hardship. Meet three teen entrepreneurs who spent their summer solving problems in the ice cream parlor, topped off by Wharton’s Tyler Wry offering insight on how new entrepreneurs can secure a stronger foothold in the market. Despite the million-dollar business stories played up on social media, success rarely comes easy, and how you deal with challenges will become your building blocks toward progress and change – in this case, one scoop at a time.

Lesson Plan
The Organizational Entrepreneur
This fun lesson will introduce students to the appeal of entrepreneurial thinking within corporations, with a little help from basketball legend Magic Johnson. Students discuss an article detailing how Magic delivered innovation to companies like Burger King and Starbucks, and then they get to try on the role of organizational entrepreneur with their favorite stores and products. This plan is actually part of a series that looks at the traditional entrepreneur and the characteristics of a traditional entrepreneur, as well as the characteristics of an organizational entrepreneur. Combining these lessons will deepen your students’ understanding of the entrepreneurial mindset.

Hands-on Learning

The Organizational Entrepreneur lesson plan highlights the Knowledge@Wharton article, ‘We Don’t Eat Scones’: Magic Johnson Proves He Has the Acumen for More than Hoops.’ His superpower, in addition to his skills on the court, was “an ability to help partners see the potential in urban, predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods.”

Successful athletes possess many of the same traits as entrepreneurs, including grit and a drive toward excellence and mastery. They prove to be fascinating case studies when they choose to take those skills into the business world.

Divide your students into groups and have them randomly choose one of the below KWHS article/video/podcast subjects to read and research using the related links and resources accompanying the stories. Some are more mainstream and intuitive than others, but they all reflect an interesting perspective on sports and entrepreneurial thinking. Encourage them to discuss the following questions as a group:

Had you heard of this athlete or athletic-related initiative before?

Did you know about his or her success on and/or off the court?

What do you find most fascinating about his/her work?

What entrepreneurial characteristics does this person have?

What leadership skills does this person have?

What market is he/she addressing?

How do you think his/her personal sports experience is related to the other endeavors?

What is your greatest takeaway from this profile?

KWHS Article Profilees:

Adonal Foyle

Shaquille O’Neal

Jen Welter

Princess Aghayere

Jeff DeCelles

Video Glossary
Provide an extra layer of learning for your students with our video glossary. Here, Wharton professors define terms: Collaboration, Corporation, Disruption, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurial, Innovator and Organization.

KWHS Quote of the Month
“The essential parts of the entrepreneurial mindset are collaboration, risk-taking and activation. First, you must be able to productively collaborate [tapping into the] strengths and weaknesses within a team. Entrepreneurs must be able to “think outside of the box,” which sometimes involves risks. You must be tolerant of unorthodox ideas. Lastly, there would be no such thing as entrepreneurship without activation, which is turning your thoughts and ideas into reality.” –Timothy P., 17, San Leandro High School, San Leandro, California, in the KWHS article, What Does Entrepreneurship Mean to You?

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